Rector’s Address at 2018 Easter General Vestry

Address given at the 2017 General Vestry on 11th April

The annual Easter General Vestry Meeting is a good opportunity for me, as your Rector, to say a few words of reflection on the past year’s activities and to thank the many people who work together to make this parish what it is – a vibrant, lively, welcoming and inclusive place to worship God and to serve his people in his name.

Along with all the regular annual events which we run here, 2017 saw the addition of an Ecumenical Conference, held on the feast day of the Birth of St. John the Baptist in June, to commemorate the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation. Due to the success of this event and our ongoing commitment to furthering the cause of ecumenism, it is hoped to make this an annual event, with this year’s conference due to be held on 13th October.

2017 also saw the 12th Dublin Company Boys’ Brigade celebrate its 125th Anniversary in this parish. Unfortunately, I had to miss the main celebration weekend in November as it coincided with the Diocesan pilgrimage to the Holy Land, but thanks to Mark Acheson and his team, it was a wonderful occasion where past and present members came together to celebrate the proud and enduring tradition of BB in this parish. The ability to carry that proud tradition into the future will depend on not only encouraging more boys to join and to engage, but also on having more adults who are willing to take on a leadership role.

Once again last year we were blessed in this parish with a large number of baptisms, sixteen in all since our last Easter General Vestry Meeting, a figure which augurs well for the future of our parish if we can encourage those families to continue to engage with the life of the local church. We also had number of weddings in our beautiful parish church, and we send our congratulations to Rebecca McConnell & Ciaran Russell, Jill Hickey & Gary Martin, Justin Perry & Ruth Keehan, Brian Walsh & Emma Allington, and Irene Scarff & Andrew Smith, who were all married in SJB last year, while Frank & Anne Jennings had their marriage blessed here.

On a sadder note, since our last Easter Vestry we also lost two ladies who were dedicated parishioners of Clontarf, and tonight we take few moments of silence to remember the late Audrey Flood Maharry and the late Dorothy Condell…

If I had to chose one word to sum up this parish, I think it would be ‘teamwork’, because while the Rector might be the public face of a parish for many, no Rector could accomplish anything on his or her own. And I am extremely grateful for the large team of people who work together on a regular or occasional basis, to accomplish both the ordinary and the extraordinary, and to make my ministry here so fulfilling.
To that end, may I take this opportunity to thank in particular:
– My colleague, Mark Acheson, for his assistance and support in worship, ministry and administration.
– Our outgoing churchwardens, Olwen Lynch and Jean Acheson, for their dedicated and efficient service in their respective roles, and those who filled in for them when they were absent. I must make particular mention here of Vimal Kumar who is always on hand to help before and after services (we wish him well with his upcoming wedding in India). Also the team of volunteers who look after set up and welcome at the 8.30 Sunday morning services.
– Our outgoing Glebe wardens, Jonathan Boyle and John Davis, who are always on hand to help sort out any problems related to the rectory or church grounds, and Jonathan’s continued oversight of the church.
– Our organist, John Rowden, our reserve organists, Sandra and Stephanie Maxwell.
– The members of the outgoing Select Vestry for their care of the fabric, furnishings and finance.
– Our outgoing Honorary Treasurer and Secretary, Nadine Watters and Bruce Maxwell for consistent dedication and expertise in their fields, and Albert Adamson who looks after the lodgements.
– Trevor Garrett, for his invaluable work in the Parish Centre and the Church, and for all the events to which he contributes so much.
– The PCMC especially Bruce Maxwell for his enormous contribution to the running of this wonderful Parish Centre.
– The members of the Needs Group, under the leadership of Mary Cunningham, who take on much of the planning and the practical work around most of our parish events.
– Sunday Club leaders: Fiona Ince, Elma Jackson, Helen Rosaldo, Heather Hunter, John Davis, Jean Acheson and our newest leader, Derek Shaw.
– Wendy Walker, Vimal Raj, and Mark Acheson, who along with myself, coordinate and run the youth activities.
– Cathy Atkin, Prncipal, Greenlanes NS, for preparing the school children for Family Services and Helen Rosaldo, who marshals the children in the church.
– All who read the lessons week by week; Albert Adamson, who coordinates the Readers’ rota, and Shirley Davies, Ted Jones, Olwen Lynch, Albert Adamson who help administer the Chalice at Holy Communion.
– Those who decorate the church and keep it adorned with flowers, especially Iris Acheson, Heather Hunter, Sheena Harper, Maureen Dixon & Hazel McCullagh. Also thanks to Iris for keeping the fair linen beautifully laundered, one of those tasks that just happen invisibly in the background.
– The Ladies who dust the church each week on a rota basis and their coordinator, Sandra Maxwell.
– Those who provide refreshments after church, and Michelle Harper, co-ordinator
– Jill & John O’Neill for all their help with catering special events, and Heather McCullagh and her team for supplying homemade traybakes and sandwiches when required.
– Sandie Stirling, stewardship recorder
– Hazel Garrett, who administers the columbarium
– Charles Kinch, car parking attendant for funerals
– Officers and those who help to run all the parish organisations including BB, Guides, Prayer Groups, Badminton Club, Tennis Club, Indoor Bowls Club, Table Tennis Club, Mothers’ Union & Whist Drives
– Heather McCullagh & Michelle Harper for running the Seniors’ Coffee Mornings.
– Lynn Boyle for the weekly Notice Sheet and Brendan Teeling for maintaining the website.
– Colin Day and Ciara Burns for their work alongside myself on the Safeguarding Trust Panel
– Ryan Ashley & friends who lead the music worship at our monthly Evening Praise services.
– All who help run all the various events that make up our varied spiritual, social and fundraising calendar.

I know that’s a long list to have to sit through, and it may not even be exhaustive, but it does go to show the number of people who are involved in and necessary to the smooth running of Clontarf Parish, the Church of St. John the Baptist. While many of these names reoccur year by year, it is encouraging to see new people getting involved, either on a regular or occasional basis (eg It was great to see lots of new people involved in decorating the church this year at Easter). Not only does this lighten the load, but is also indicative of a healthy, inclusive parish which has a keen eye on the future while continuing to serve the present well.

Speaking of the future, another parish organisation with a long tradition in Clontarf which will struggle to play a part in the future of the Parish is the Mothers’ Union. Recently, the remaining members decided quite rightly to join with the members of Raheny & Coolock and a whole new range of activities and friendships have now opened up to them. The parish branch is officially in abeyance, which means the door has been left open for a revival, should sufficient interest be aroused in the future.

I mention this, along with my earlier remarks about the BB, to highlight the need for support of our various clubs and organisations to ensure their continuation, and to prevent us taking the work of leaders and officers for granted. If you want these and other organisations to continue to operate in this parish, get involved in them! To a large degree, our future is in our own hands.

If you want to be part of a parish whose church attendance continues to grow – come to church more often (the monthly Sunday evening services are a great alternative for those for whom Sunday mornings are busy).
If you want to be part of a parish which offers a really good social dimension – support the events which are organised and be prepared to help out if necessary.
If you want a Christ-centred parish which exudes spirituality and a living faith – come along to a prayer group or Bible Study, or ask for prayer when you need it.
If you want to be part of a parish which is open and welcoming, and which continues to attract and keep new people- be warm and welcoming and friendly to all with whom you interact in parish circles.
If you want to be part of a parish which promotes equality and inclusiveness – continue to regard and treat all people as being of equal value regardless of age, gender, race, background or sexual orientation.
If you want to be part of a parish that is free to maintain and improve its current level of ministry and outreach, give as generously as you can from your financial resources and get involved in our annual fundraising Autumn Fair. Most of you will have recently received a letter highlighting our financial challenges as a parish, but I’ll leave it to our Treasurer to enlarge on that further.

We have a wonderful parish, with facilities which are second to none, and I have no doubt that God will continue to bless our efforts to build up his kingdom in this place. And while technically he doesn’t need our help to do so, he magnanimously invites us to join him in the work of his kingdom, which should be, and is, a pure pleasure and privilege.

Finally, can I say a word of personal thanks for the love, friendship and support which I continue receive from all of you. It is my joy and privilege to serve you here in Clontarf and together to serve and glorify our great and wonderful God.
To him be the glory. Amen